Google listens after you say 'OK Google' to your desktop Chrome

Chrome browser users can now say "OK Google" to initiate a search or tell Google to set a reminder.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

If you don't mind recordings of what you say to your PC being sent to Google, you can now let your desktop Chrome browser listen for the command "OK Google", which triggers a hands-free voice search.

Google announced the arrival of the voice trigger in Chrome on Wednesday, bringing its standard voice-command for initiating a search on Android, Google Now, or actions on Glass to the desktop too.

Previously, to activate a voice search in Chrome on the desktop, users would have to click on the microphone icon in the search box.

The new voice command only works on google.com and is available for Chrome users outside the US and in some other languages, so long as they're on that domain — rather than, for example, Google.com.au or Google.es. The feature is supported on Chrome for Linux, Macs and Windows.

2014-05-23 01.22.18 pm
Image: Google

While talking to a computer might seem more unnatural than giving spoken instructions to a phone — which could be necessary while driving a car, for example — Google thinks the functionality would be useful when your hands are busy or dirty, such as while cooking. 

And besides search, the "OK Google" voice command can be used to ask Google to set a timer or create a reminder — a feature that's tied to Google Now, which is used to deliver reminders on an iOS or Android device.

Google launched voice activation in a beta version of Chrome in February and rolled it out to the public in Chrome version 35, the latest stable version of the browser. It was released earlier this week with fixes for 23 security flaws.

Before enabling the feature, it might be worth reading Google's support notes on what audio it collects from the microphone and how to tell when it's listening.

Once "OK Google" is enabled, the microphone icon will be shaded in, while a white space in the icon indicates it's not listening.

2014-05-23 01.08.47 pm
Image: Google

Google collects audio recordings before, during and after the words "OK Google" are spoken.

"After you say "OK Google" while on a Google search page or the new tab page, the audio recording of what you say will be sent to Google," it notes in a support page.

"Chrome will also send the audio recording of the phrase "OK Google" and a few seconds before that to improve voice recognition. When you turn on 'OK Google', you can choose not to send the sound of "OK Google" and the few seconds before."

If users find this data collection intrusive, they can switch the feature off in Chrome's menu under Settings, Show Advanced Settings, Privacy.

Read more on Chrome


Editorial standards